Mayan Long Count Calendar

January 21, 2012 by staff 

Mayan Long Count CalendarMayan Long Count Calendar, Please excuse me if you’ve already read about this — I’m always the last guy to know — but apparently some people are unhappy with the calendar. In other calendar news, the world apparently is going to end next Dec. 21, according to the Mayan calendar.

About this latter point, apparently many people in pseudo-scientific circles have been worrying about it for decades. Me, I only began to worry about it after seeing a John Cusack movie on cable.

The deal is that the Mayan “Long Count” calendar, which began in 3114 B.C., is set to “run out” after 5,126 years, meaning this year, specifically on Dec. 21. So if you usually do your Christmas shopping early, you might want to hold off.

Apparently there is some dispute about that Dec. 21 date, which some experts say could be off by as much as 60 days, owing to variations in how different calendars count dates. This is the part about the Mayan calendar debate I love best — “Of course the ancient Mayans correctly predicted the end of the world, but they were off by a few weeks.”

The calendar we use is called the Gregorian calendar, named after Pope Gregory XIII, who issued it back in 1582, when popes had some real clout.

Some people who are really, really picky worry that the Gregorian calendar is imprecise and/or awkward. Because it takes the Earth 365 days and six hours or so to orbit the sun, you have to add an extra day every four years to make things come out even, plus re-jigger the clocks for a “leap second” every now and then.

As someone who often gets through a day without knowing the date, I don’t understand this yearning for more precision. Close enough is good enough.

But right before the New Year, I read in Wired magazine about these two guys at Johns Hopkins University who are calendar reformers. Economist Steve Hanke and astronomer Richard Cohn Henry have developed what they modestly call the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar.

Under their calendar — a refined version of one developed in 1996 by a guy named Bob McClenon — every date would always fall on the same day of the week. Instead of your birthday, for example, moving ahead one day of the week each year (and two days every leap year), it always would fall on the same day.

Christmas and New Year’s Day always would be on Sundays, which Hanke and Hart say would help the economy because people wouldn’t be sneaking two weeks off. March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, always would be on a Saturday, which would make bar owners happy. The Fourth of July always would fall on a Wednesday, which might work out to a five-day weekend for some people. Halloween, Oct. 31, always would — oops, sorry. No Oct. 31.

The Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar divides the year into equal quarters of 91 days. Each quarter has two 30-day months followed by a 31-day month. Alas, October would be a 30-day month, so you’d have to trick-or-treat on the 30th, which still would be All Hallow’s Eve because the next day is Nov. 1, All Saints Day.

If Oct. 31 — or Jan. 31, May 31, July 31 or Aug. 31 — is your birthday, you’re out of luck.

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